Big difference for “Little School”

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

SOMEONE once said that there are a lot of ways to experience the cultures of other countries without actually having to go there.

That someone may have been talking about the “Eskwelahang Munti”—translated in Tagalog as “Little School.” in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Eskwelahang Munti” started in a summer camp this year and now ripened into a school that uses “Tagalog” as a medium of instruction.


The school is under the auspices of the Filipino-American Spirit, Inc. and its objective is to develop appreciation of the Filipino language and culture.

The group was created by volunteers who believe in instilling understanding and appreciation among the Filipino American youths who grew up in Charlotte about everything Filipino.

“Eskwelahang Munti” integrated in its curriculum Filipino values, geography, history, arts and music, literature and Pinoy cuisine.

It also included areas of concerns in the Philippines mixed with major subjects. It aims to teach Fil-Am children about conversational Tagalog and show the Philippines as a beautiful country rich in heritage and resources and its friendly, wise people.

The training for teachers and volunteer-teachers was held at the Asian Library at Uptown, Charlotte last Aug. 10.

Sherrilyn Tamayo-Siplon conducted the training for trainers which consisted of preparing lesson plans, demo classes, practical teaching and workbook activities.

The participants were teachers or those with teaching experience back in the Philippines as well as those who were introduced to the books of Jiedson Domigpe and Nenita Pambid Domingo of Tuttle publishing in Tagalog.

Those who attended the seminar were Gloria Grifenhagen, Guia Villapando, Luz Taboada, Ron Beltran, Dell Fallar and this writer. Grifenhagen and Fallar along with Sherr Siplon served as teachers in the summer camp.

There are now 30 enrolees aged eight to 18, Grifenhagen said. Most of the students have Filipino-American families in North Carolina, who are interested to learn the Philippine culture.

In an email, Dr. Nini RB Bautista de Garcia, chairperson of the Filipino-American Spirit, Inc., said community interest in the “Eskwelahang Munti of Charlotte” has snowballed and stoked enthusiasm among the initial “pool" of teachers resulting in commitments of financial support.

Garcia said Dr. Chris Villapando received a $3,000 grant from the Catholic Diocese Foundation (which is half of the annual budget), and may receive funding from Pennsylvania.

It was learned that the Filipino-American Spirit, Inc. intends to raise funds to sustain the program through various projects among the Filipino-American community at the Carolina.

Gloria Grifenhagen, a retired teacher from South Mecklenburg, said she didn’t expect the enthusiastic response from the parents who sent their kids to Little School.

Grifenhagen’s eyes glowed when she described the first class in summer ending in a virtual trip to Manila. “(The kids are) so smart,” she said of the graduates in summer camp.

Grifenhagen has been in Charlotte for 40 years, having graduated from Philippine Normal College, now Philippine Normal University.

Her paternal roots , the “Cagadas,” are from Bohol but she grew up in Manila. She said teaching after her retirement is her way of giving back to society what she wonderfully received in life.

For her part Adelia “Dell” Fallar, also a teacher who happens to be a cousin of the lawyer Felipe and Jacob Montesa brothers in the city, is optimistic about the Little School.

“Speaking English is a no-no in this program. This is rewarding, this is a sort of feeling the waters and we don’t know where this would lead,” Fallar said.

For this writer meeting these women is an honor, as they keep themselves busy in their retirement to make a difference on Filipino-American kids.

This writer would like to greet a happy, happy natal day to Faith “Bing” Minases-Springboard of Charlotte whose party last Wednesday, August 14, was swarmed with friends and family.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 17, 2013.


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